Dataset Review—Zooniverse, the online repository for Citizen Science

Patrick Manning
2018 Journal of World-Systems Research  
Planetarium) Repository: http://zooniverse.org -Operated by Citizen Science Alliance Zooniverse advertises itself as "the world's largest and most popular platform for people-powered research." Its origins are with Galaxy Zoo, a project that drew on public participation ("Citizen Science") to identify patterns in images of galaxies. The initial project was led by Chris Lintott and Kevin Schawinski of Oxford University. That program, launched in 2007, met with immediate success and soon led to a
more » ... s and soon led to a generalized platform, "Zooniverse." Lintott has maintained a leadership role throughout the dramatic expansion of Zooniverse, which is now anchored at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago as well as at Oxford University. As of this writing, Zooniverse has 78 separate projects of data collection and analysis, displayed in 9 disciplinary categories. Individual projects are listed in more than one discipline, but the rough totals are: 12 projects in Physics and Space, 41 projects in Nature, Biology, and Climate, 3 projects in Medicine, 7 projects in Social Science and History; and 6 projects in Arts, Language and Literature. (There is a further overlap of the projects in social sciences and humanities.) The opening page of the site leads viewers readily into a list of the 9 disciplines and then to the projects within each discipline. Thus, one finds that the "Snapshot Grumeti" project, classifying camera-trap images from the Singita Grumeti Game Reserve in Tanzania, has 547 volunteers who have completed 28,444 classifications of 23,816 subjects, resulting in 200 Vizzuality. The latter is a development firm, based in Madrid and Cambridge, that has operated the Zooniverse portal and describes itself as a science and technology company focusing on sustainable development. Zooniverse is already quite large as a research enterprise, though it is clearly just a tiny portion of what it could become. For readers of JWSR, it will be worthwhile to explore Zooniverse and its projects, to see how this resource could meet the needs of researchers in world systems, world history, and historical sociology. It is a platform that provides structure and guidance yet allows for great variety in the topics and methodologies with which it is associated. Zooniverse is not, however, a one-stop-shopping service for online research. It is clear that, of the Zooniverse projects that have experienced great success, each online project is closely tied to a network of researchers with common interests, in which substantial investment and innovative project design have strengthened those networks.
doi:10.5195/jwsr.2018.787 fatcat:x46tyq4t5rfipld7rm7p6u3o4m